Calgary City Skyline

Most of us spend around 90% of our lives indoors, working, living, shopping and entertaining. Think about that: on average, 90 hours of every 100 is spent inside buildings. We all experience buildings first-hand and we know on some level that architecture is about buildings. Well architecture IS about buildings, but it’s also much, much more.

Small “b” buildings vs. capital “A” Architecture

Architecture is more than basic shelter and more than four walls and a roof over our heads. It affects everything we do. Architecture can help us see the world in new ways. It can encourage us, lift our spirits, bring us peace. Done badly, it can confuse us, stress us out or make us sick. The silent dialogue between us and our buildings speaks much more profoundly than words. Winston Churchill said it well: “We shape our buildings and then they shape us”.

Language of space

The language of architecture is found in the three dimensional space that accommodates the entire range of human activity. Architecture happens in the way those spaces are configured, their relationship to each other, their material quality, proportion, scale, materials, light, colours, mood. These intangible qualities give a building, architecture, its meaning.

Bigger ideas

Architecture starts with an idea. Architect Daniel Libeskind says: “It’s not the richness of materials, but the richness of ideas.” A church for example, should communicate ideas about our significance in the universe. Ideas about the nature of God, of our relationship to Him, our relationship to other people and to the natural world. A church expresses a world-view in built form, not necessarily through symbols and icons, but through the quality of space itself.

Putting materials together

Architect Mies van der Rohe gets to the essence: “Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins.” So architecture begins, and ends, with very deliberate ideas about how we put materials together to create something greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Ideas are cheap

Ideas don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to be considered early in the process. An idea can be as simple as the particular placement of a window, the qualities of a wall or door, or the way people are directed through a space.

What is the message?

So what is your building about? As you embark on a building program, what ideas should your architecture communicate? Good or bad, that message will speak for decades to come and will affect up to 90% of your time here on earth. Why not begin it with a capital “A”?

For more ideas about how to take your architecture from “b” to “A”, talk to Kelly or David at Parker Seminoff Architects or leave a comment below.

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